With the current Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) system over thirty years old, the government’s consultation on reforming the process has been welcomed by many who are concerned about protecting those who may lose the capacity to manage their own affairs.

A Lasting Power of Attorney is a legal document which allows an individual to give their trusted representative, usually a relative or close friend, the authority to make decisions on their behalf. If the person who signed the power one day loses the ability to deal with matters, their attorney can step in to do this on their behalf.

The Lasting Power of Attorney system is currently paper-based, with individuals reporting that the system has been difficult to navigate and that some banks are reluctant to accept Lasting Powers of Attorney.

Understanding Lasting Powers of Attorney

Consumer organisation Which conducted a survey of 2,000 individuals in November 2021, finding a lack of understanding of the system as well as difficulties in using it.

While 85% of those questioned said they knew what a Lasting Power of Attorney was, many of these were confused as to exactly what signing an LPA meant.

Some 16% thought that once an LPA is registered, access to bank accounts is lost by the person who has made the LPA. A substantial 70% said that they did not need an LPA as they were healthy, possibly not realising that once capacity has been lost, it is too late to sign.

More than three quarters (77%) thought that an LPA could be signed at any time of life, again, taking the risk that they would not have one in place should it ever be needed.

Among younger people, there was even less understanding, with 26% of those aged 18-34 saying they did not know what an LPA was while amongst those aged over 55, only 7% did not know.

Of those earning under £21,000 per year, 20% did not know what the document was, but for earners making over £56,000, only 10% did not know.

Difficulties with banks

Which has also uncovered difficulties in dealing with banks. Over 8,000 Which members with a registered LPA were questioned, with 60% saying that there was a lack of knowledge among bank staff. Some 38% said the process was complex and 28% experienced delays.

Of those questioned, 31% said that banks were the most difficult to deal with, with many reporting that banks had lost LPA documents, had not properly explained the registration process or had insisted on unnecessary trips to a branch.

Some banks failed to give full access to attorneys, even after the registration process had been completed.

Lasting Power of Attorney reform

Reforms proposed include introducing a fast-track service, digitising the registration process and increasing awareness of the system.

The government hopes to improve access and increase safeguards. Services will go online, but it is still proposed to maintain a paper option, which is likely to benefit people with brain injuries, those in care homes or those with degenerative cognitive conditions. This could also be important for the estimated five million people aged 55 or over who do not have access to the internet.

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